|“|| I believe he's the only person who can help me.
In 1945, Charlotte was traveling to the University of Maryland to attend a lecture. While walking home in the evening, she was attacked by four young, white men who beat her and kidnapped her. She was driven to an abandoned house where she was taken into the basement and beaten repeatedly. They took off all her clothes and locked her in a closet for nine days. Each day of her captivity the boys returned to the abandoned house to assault her or chase her around the house, on one occasion forcing her to eat dog food. One of the boys did not want to be involved in Charlotte's torture, and had repeatedly tried to call his friends' attention to the fact that Charlotte's wounds were becoming infected due to having to sit in her own feces. He eventually contacted the police.
On the ninth day, a police officer came and unlocked the closet door, but gave Charlotte an ultimatum that he would only let her go if she agreed not to press charges against the boys; Charlotte suspected that the police officer may have been the father of one of the boys. The police officer gave her a clean set of clothing and five dollars, and drove her to the bus station.
In the wake of her nine day period of torture and imprisonment, Charlotte developed a deep suicidal depression with dissociative episodes. After a failed attempt at taking her own life, she was "locked-up" in a psychiatric hospital where she was mis-diagnosed with melancholia, an illness that in the modern day would now be known as major depressive disorder. She was drugged with amphetamines in a misguided attempt at treatment, which kept her awake for days and led to a psychotic break and the development of post-traumatic dissociative identity disorder (DID), historically known as multiple personality disorder.
Charlotte's initial alternate identities were Ondine Duquette, an accomplished violinist; Apollo, a gold-medal winning Olympian; and Baby Taffy, a small child who is her mother's caretaker. Her three alters "take control" when Charlotte is under emotional stress and to protect her from the pain of her trauma, leaving her with significant voids of her memory. From her perspective, she occasionally heard the alters - mostly Ondine - as voices, but did not have any memory of what she had done when they took control. The incidents where they take control can be quite distressing to those around her, because both Ondine and Apollo are loud, assertive and aggressive personalities. In one such incident, Charlotte as Ondine verbally abused and berated a violinist who was playing in a public courtyard, drawing a crowd of confused onlookers.
Arrival at Lucia State
In 1947, Charlotte self-admitted to Lucia State Hospital after being picked up by a policeman for the aggression she displayed against the violinist. She presented to Dr. Richard Hanover with increasingly long lapses of memory, having found herself two weeks prior on a train to New York City with no memory of how she got on. While initially presenting as Charlotte herself, and able to talk to Hanover with reasonable lucidity, over time she became increasingly distressed, with all three of her alters fronting in turn. Hanover diagnosed her with post-traumatic DID and, when Charlotte as Apollo became increasingly more aggressive, gave her a sedative "sleep cure" for six days to allow her nervous system to rest. Showing an unusual amount of tenderness, he managed to convince Charlotte that she would be safe at the hospital and under his care.
Hanover was encouraged by Mildred that, if Charlotte could be successfully cured, it could prove that other patients could be successfully rehabilitated too, leading to increased funding for the hospital. He began a series of hypnosis sessions with her in which she disclosed her torture to him. Over time these hypnosis sessions reduced her general panic response, leading to fewer events of her alters taking control. Because of this marked and measurable improvement, it renewed Hanover's belief in the ability of psychiatric medicine. Charlotte became Hanover's pet project, and the intense focus of his attention.
Over a period of days, Charlotte had eventually improved enough that she was able to attend the hospital dance organized by Mildred Ratched. She was visibly nervous about sitting near to Harold, a guard wearing a police uniform, due to her previous experience with the corrupt police officer who had freed her. Harold reached out to her, reassuring her that he was a kind man despite being a police officer. He flirted with her, which she seemed flattered by, and invited her to dance with him, which she did, smiling and laughing as they danced together.
Her happiness was sadly short lived, as fellow patient and mass-murderer Edmund Tolleson, who up until this point had been under intense security in a basement cell, was also permitted to attend the dance, where he had planned to escape with his girlfriend, the nurse trainee Dolly. Edmund took a razor blade that Mildred had hidden and slit Harold's throat right in front of Charlotte, spraying her with his blood. Dolly then preceded to take the gun from Harold's body and use it to shoot Gwendolyn Briggs in the chest. This triggered an intense dissociative episode that set back Charlotte's recovery significantly.
Despite this setback, Hanover later presented Charlotte as a star example of the potential for mental health rehabilitation in a meeting with Governor Wilburn and Gwendolyn Briggs, describing her as "much more the face of this facility than Edmund Tolleson ever was". Wilburn however all but disregarded Hanover's findings and threatened to sever their professional relationship due to the incident at the dance causing damage to his reputation as Governor as a key donor, unless he agreed to sign the release deeming Edmund fit to stand trial with the view to have him executed. His hand forced, Hanover signed the release.
Hanover was soon after exiled from Lucia State Hospital by Nurse Bucket and Mildred, and was forced to go on the run due to a hit being put out on him by Lenore Osgood. Hanover convinces Charlotte to come with him to continue her treatment, planning to cross the border into Canada where Hanover knew a fellow psychiatrist in Vancouver who may be willing to help them with her continued recovery by allowing Hanover to treat her at his hospital in secret. On their commute they stopped at a motel, where the mild sedation Hanover had given her to make the journey more tolerable and safe had begun to wear off, leaving her feeling woozy and disoriented. When there was a knock on the door of their motel room, Hanover panicked and forced Charlotte to hide in a closet. This triggers another episode for Charlotte, who switches between Ondine, Baby Taffy, and ultimately Apollo, who accuses Hanover of being Adolf Hitler. Charlotte as Apollo punches Hanover in the face repeatedly, then stabs him multiple times in his chest and torso, killing him.
Charlotte woke up sitting on the floor of the bathroom covered in blood, but with no recollection of the incident. She discovered Hanover's corpse and, panicked, called Mildred Ratched for help. Mildred arrived and helped to de-escalate Charlotte's panic, reassuring her that she knew that Charlotte would never have done anything to deliberately harm Hanover and that it wasn't her fault. She helped to clean Charlotte up, gave her clean clothes to wear, and took her to the bus station. She booked Charlotte on a bus to San Diego, and instructed her to cross the border to Mexico, where San Luis Hospital in Ensenada would be able to help her continue her treatment. Mildred gave her $50, with the promise to send her more in a few weeks.
Unfortunately, Charlotte never made it to the psychiatric hospital in Mexico, presumably experiencing a dissociative episode once the sedation Hanover had given her had fully worn off and the fact that she was responsible for a murder had sunk in. She developed a new alter to cope with this trauma, this time taking on the persona of Hanover himself. She returned to Lucia State Hospital fully submerged in this new persona, determined to free Edmund Tolleson and rehabilitate him. Nurse Bucket tried to get through to Charlotte, but couldn't. Charlotte as Hanover ordered Bucket to fetch Edmund, but instead, Bucket sought help from Huck Finnigan. When Huck entered the room with her however, Charlotte as Hanover became enraged and, using a gun she had found in Hanover's desk, shot Huck dead with a gunshot to the forehead.
Taking Bucket as a hostage, she then went down to Edmund's cell in the basement, where Bucket bluffed them past the guard stating that Charlotte was "Isabelle Blankley of the Office of Prisoner Rights from the American Civil Liberties Union", visiting to inspect Edmund's living conditions. In the basement, Charlotte then shoots dead another guard who tries to prevent her from freeing Edmund. After letting Edmund out, he used the dead guard's gun to threaten and interrogate Bucket to tell him Mildred's plan, which was to have him humanely euthanized via injection by her own hand, instead of him facing the electric chair. Enraged, he locked Bucket in his cell, and Edmund and Charlotte made their escape, driving away in a car Charlotte had purchased using money Mildred had sent her.
In 1950, Charlotte, Edmund, and their new accomplice Louise were still on the run and newly in pursuit of Mildred, who had moved to Mexico with her partner, Gwendolyn.
Charlotte is a nervous and shy woman who is soft spoken and gentle. She was severely emotionally and psychologically traumatized by the nine day kidnapping and torture that she experienced, and the injustice of the corrupt police officer who prevented her from getting any closure, which led to her developing dissociative identity disorder as a coping mechanism. From her perspective, she experiences these dissociative episodes like a memory lapse or small period of amnesia; she has no memory of what she does when she is being inhabited by one of her alternate personalities. She finds this experience distressing, because it means she sometimes finds herself in unfamiliar places with no recollection of how she got there.
Charlotte has a very sensitive anxiety response, which is her primary trigger for her switching personalities; her alternate personalities come forward to protect her if she's startled, being asked difficult questions, being physically touched, feels cornered or is just generally under emotional strain or stress. In particular, Charlotte has an intense fear of being shut in a closet, due to the trauma of her kidnapping; Hanover forcing her into a closet re-traumatized her to such a degree that she had a psychotic break where her alternate personalities were fighting to come to the front, and ultimately murdered Hanover (while presenting as Apollo).
Charlotte developed a very close relationship with Dr. Richard Hanover, who treated her with kindness and very quickly was able to earn her trust. She appeared to be having an extremely positive response to Hanover's treatment with hypnotherapy, with Hanover's report stating that she had at one point progressed to a stage where her alters had all but disappeared entirely. She had improved enough to be able to attend the hospital dance while remaining fully lucid, and seemed to bond with the kind guard Harold, who flirted and danced with her, the only time she appeared to be experiencing genuine happiness throughout the series. Harold's death triggered her first severe dissociative episode since the start of her hypnotherapy treatment, and Hanover's death was so traumatic to Charlotte that it ultimately led to her forming a fourth personality, which was based on Hanover himself, such was her respect and admiration for him and his life's calling to rehabilitate the mentally unwell like her.
Although we do not see them form a bond on screen, she also seems to trust Mildred Ratched, to such a degree that she is her first port of call after discovering Hanover's body. It can be inferred that while she was hospitalized, Mildred had treated Charlotte with the same kindness and empathy she learned to show her other patients, based on the way she quickly responded to and trusted Mildred's reassurance and comfort when she arrived at the scene of the motel. Charlotte also does not switch personalities a single time during this scene and remained lucid throughout despite being extremely emotionally distressed, which while also a sign of how well her therapy had been progressing up to that point, may also either be a sign of their close relationship while Charlotte was hospitalized, or a result of the fact Charlotte is overall less threatened by women than by men due to the root of her trauma.
Ondine is a self-proclaimed accomplished violinist who boasts proudly about her achievements. She claims to be a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, The Royal Academy of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music. She also claims to have been first chair violin of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, and to have performed for Prince Louis II of Monaco, King Leopold III of Belgium, and King George VI of England.
Ondine is Charlotte's primary alter and the one she seems to be most aware of, being the only one she tells Hanover that she has heard the voice of. She often appears whenever Charlotte is being questioned about something or is struggling to comprehend what is happening to her, as Ondine's exaggerated confidence and self-assuredness makes up for the confidence Charlotte herself lacks. Her major defense mechanism for Charlotte is to repeatedly shout "You're nothing!" in their face and belittle those around her by comparing their lack of substance to her long list of accomplishments until they back down and leave Charlotte alone.
Apollo is an multi Olympic gold medal winning athlete. He appears to be an mixed allegory of sources: Jesse Owens, a Black American track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin during the reign of Adolf Hitler, with Apollo's name a nod by the creators to the fictional boxer Apollo Creed from the Rocky film series. Much of his backstory around winning Olympic gold was based on the story of Jesse Owens.
Apollo won five medals - including 400m hurdles - at what can be surmised was the real-world 1936 Olympic Games, held in Berlin and used by Adolf Hitler as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy. Apollo does not believe that Adolf Hitler is dead, believing he was too intelligent to commit suicide. He believes he left someone else's burnt-up bones in his bunker and escaped on a submarine to Argentina, and has made it his mission to kill Adolf himself.
Apollo is an aggressive protector for Charlotte, and primarily appears if she is being physically threatened or manhandled, or she needs to physically defend herself. When fronting as Apollo, she is physically very strong, able to easily overpower and assault men with some skill, and tries to physically intimidate and threaten those who have triggered his appearance in Charlotte. It's likely he was formed based on Charlotte's unresolved rage about the fact she was never able to receive justice for what happened to her, represented in the way that Apollo is seeking justice for the atrocities Hitler committed. This is supported by the fact that Apollo only cements that Hanover must be Hitler himself (with a different moustache) after he repeats the action which traumatized Charlotte to begin with - putting her in a closet - and so has an opportunity to get the justice he was seeking.
Baby Taffy is Charlotte's least common alter. Unlike Charlotte's two other initial personas, Baby Taffy is not an intimidating persona used to scare those who have triggered Charlotte. Baby Taffy is a vulnerable young child who is the caregiver to her ill mother; the mother likely an allegory for Charlotte herself. Baby Taffy, acting as a caregiver for Charlotte, appears when Charlotte is feeling emotionally vulnerable and represents the part of Charlotte that wants someone to protect and care for her, the way she never was during and after her torture. Though she doesn't always have a strong vocal presence like the other alters, she can be sometimes be seen in short bursts when Charlotte sometimes momentarily has childlike body language or uncharacteristically giggles, often as a bridge between Apollo and Ondine.
Dr. Richard Hanover
After Hanover's death, Charlotte has a psychotic break which forms a fourth personality, taking on the persona of "Hanover" himself. It's not known exactly what triggered this new personality split in Charlotte, as during her final conversation with Mildred after she tried to help her escape to Mexico Charlotte appeared to be extremely lucid (if distressed), but it can be inferred that sometime after that the emotional weight of the murder finally hit her and triggered a severe dissociative episode that was not shown.
"Hanover" represents all that Charlotte admired about Hanover and is effectively her "taking on" his life's work as a coping mechanism for the guilt she feels for having murdered the first person in her life who had tried to, and succeeded in, helping her and showing her kindness. It's likely this was exacerbated by the fact that Hanover had turned her into his star pupil and thus added additional pressure to her recovery needing to be complete and perfect so she could be used as an example - she likely perceives the psychotic break that killed him as her personally failing his goal and legacy. Interestingly, unlike Charlotte's other personas, "Hanover" knows, recognizes, and can name people Charlotte has seen before.
"Hanover" is trapped in time during the period that Charlotte and real-Hanover were on the run from the hit put out by Lenore Osgood. Thus, "Hanover" is still paranoid that he is being pursued, and determined that he must leave Lucia State Hospital to form a new facility where he can, in "his" words: "chart a brave, new course into the science of the mind, and help patients like Charlotte Wells, truly cure them". To this end, "Hanover" sought to free Edmund Tolleson so that he could cure and rehabilitate him to prove to his critics and the world what psychiatric medicine is truly capable of. So determined is "Hanover" to meet this goal that he uses a gun to murder Huck Finnigan and Edmund's guard who treats simply as people who got in his way.
Charlotte was created by series co-creator Ryan Murphy. He personally approached actress Sophie Okonedo in L.A. to offer her the role, disclosing to her both her backstory and the cast of other actors who were already attached to the series (Paulson, Nixon, Davies, Stone, Plummer), which was a huge draw to Okonedo, who told NBC Palm Springs that she felt: "Oh my goodness I could go into this without reading the script, actually."
Okonedo approached the role in such a way that because Charlotte has no memory of what she has done while dissociating, she approached Charlotte's personalities each as individual characters with their own inner life. She told Variety: "With Charlotte, I just really tried to play the truth of each moment and not worry about how it weaves together. When I was her, I was very much in the place she was. Rather than think about Charlotte being underneath them all — because I didn't think that would be helpful — I just made each one a real person for myself. When I was playing the others, I had a full life for them in my imagination."
- She is 45 years old.